Tag: Domain

The Case of the Stolen Domain Names

Back in 2011, the domain name for this site, css-tricks.com, was stolen. “Domain Hijacking,” they call it. It wasn’t just this site, but around 12 others in the design and development space. To this day, none of us really know how it happened and who was behind it, although I believe all the domains are back to their original owners now.

The registrants involved varied, so even that wasn’t a common thread. My best guess was that the bad guys got access to my email but deleted all trace of emails related to domain transfers. Or it was an inside job.

One odd thing about it, for me, was that they never got around to changing any DNS information even though domain name itself was stolen. So the site remained up and I had access to it the whole time. I blogged about it in real time and then again once it was safe.

No amount of backups in the world can save you from a domain name getting stolen. If the DNS, which you no longer control, is changed away from your current hosting, that’s it, it’s gone and it isn’t coming back until you reassert control over that domain name and re-point the DNS.

Another site that was affected was David Walsh’s site. David got it worse because he actually lost access for a while, and got a ransom email like I never did. David’s domain registrar was name.com, and they were the ones who fought on his behalf to get it back. They produced a cool little video about it all:

An especially vile twist to all this was the fact that the domains weren’t just transferred away from one domain registrar to another, but they made three “hops” through different registrants. The whole purpose of that is to make it especially hard to ever get back.

In my case, my domain registrant was GoDaddy, and the story is remarkably similar to David’s. They had to go to war with the situation and get the domain transferred back to them, back through all the hops. I remain grateful to GoDaddy to this day for how they were willing to fight that war, and especially grateful that they won, although I do still remain curious how it happened. These days all my domains remain on GoDaddy, and css-tricks.com especially has just about every lock you can possibly put on the dang thing.

David got his back because name.com literally called up the bad guy and apparently applied enough threats that the bad guy himself transferred it back. I believe mine was more of a company-to-company affair.

I feel especially bad for people this happens to who don’t have the ability to make as big of a stink about it as David and I did. Without using Twitter to, as David put it, “put pressure on” (he had a hashtag and everything), he might not have gotten fires that were hot enough and under the right butts to get it done. As we can see with the video above, a good outcome on something like this is good marketing; and a bad outcome is, well, exactly the opposite.

Just three years after that saga went down, my website host was compromised, and that was another whole saga. (I don’t think it was related, but who knows.) The bad guy in that story went by the name Earl Drudge and we even interviewed him on ShopTalk Show.

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Using Your Domain with a Netlify-Hosted Site

Netlify has their own docs for Custom Domains, so if you’re looking for horse’s mouth technical docs on this stuff, that should be treated as the source of truth. But I’d like to take a crack at it from a slightly different angle, where we look at where you are and what you wanna do, and the point you in the right direction.

Do you NOT own the domain yet?

If that’s the case, you can buy it directly through Netlify if you want. There is a big advantage there in that it automatically gets set up to work perfectly, so it’s easier.

You don’t have to buy your domain through Netlify though, you can buy it wherever you like. There is nothing you can’t do with Netlify if you choose to buy a domain elsewhere.

Easiest possible method: register the domain with Netlify.

Alternative: If you anticipate some hosting/DNS churn, like you think you might ultimately need to host elsewhere, it probably makes more sense to manage to domain somewhere agnostic where you can re-point DNS stuff wherever you need to. It’s not that you can’t manage the DNS on Netlify and point it elsewhere, it just doesn’t make loads of sense. Also, there is something to be said (lower cognitive load) managing all your domains in one place if you can.

What if you already own the domain?

No problem. The rest of this article deals with that scenario.

Are you cool pointing the nameservers at Netlify?

If you are, this is the best way. It means you don’t have to fiddle with subdomains and the CDN features work the best. The requires you to go into the DNS administration area of wherever you bought the domain and change the nameservers there. Every domain registrant will be a bit different in where and how you do that.

Changing nameservers on GoDaddy to point to Netlify.

Can’t or don’t want to point nameservers at Netlify?

I would guess that the main reason you might have this preference is that you use Cloudflare, or perhaps something else similar that gives you fancy performance and security advantages by going through their proxy. Netlify actually says that you don’t need Cloudflare with them, because many of the main advantages of Cloudflare Netlify already provides.

Technology is a moving place though, and it’s entirely possible that you need or really want some feature that a proxy service like Cloudflare provides.

If you need to do this, you’ve got two options:

  • Use the www. version of your domain and a CNAME record to point to Netlify (you can “CNAME flatten” it to remove www. if you really want).
  • Point the A record to Netlify’s load balancer IP address. I’d list it here, but you’re better off getting it from their docs in case it changes.

Are you just dealing with a subdomain anyway?

This is actually a lot easier. If this is the case, you probably already own the domain name anyway, and you should stick with your existing DNS host. All you need to do is CNAME the subdomain to the Netlify domain. Here’s an example where the root domain is hosted elsewhere and uses Cloudflare for DNS, but the subdomain is Netlify hosted and points with a CNAME.

If you care about the Netlify domain sitting there with the same content on it, you can always redirect it. Also, you might need to “gray cloud” (turn off the Cloudflare proxy) for those subdomains so Netlify can issue SSL certificates for it.

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